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2016 Chapbook Contest: Week 2 Review

Friends! Firstly, thanks so much for the nice words regarding last week’s post—I’m glad to see people are interested in getting more behind-the-scenes info as our N! gears turn!

This last week can be summarized as follows: some reading, then AWP, then reading, reading, reading! 😉

Prior to AWP I’d only reviewed ~10 MSS (lots of craziness at work as I make up time spent in Boise for Storyfort!), and last week’s convention took up most of my time… but I did carve out +8 hours Sunday evening, Monday afternoon, and yesterday after work, getting some serious reading + reviewing done!

Now some fun facts on how N!P looks at chapbook submissions(!):

  • While I prefer the slow-and-steady approach, Jeremiah starts his reviewing by reading the first 3 poems of each MSS for a quick introduction. If anything appeals or sticks out to him, he stars it in our Gmail. Then later he goes back through all the MSS more thoroughly, focusing especially on anything he or I initially liked. He goes through and then reads those aloud
  • Meanwhile, I start with the first MS, and move forward in the order they were received—I like to honor people who were especially prepared for our contest 🙂 —taking notes for each MS in our online managing page
  • I like to read in groups of 10 or so, with quick breaks in between. This keeps me from burning out, while also being able to make comparisons of style, heart, and craft
  • Others have said this, but the first few pieces of your chapbook truly say a lot. With few exceptions, I’ll know from these initial pieces whether I’m going to enjoy the MS. Like pretty much everything, poetry is subjective—we all have our individual aesthetic. I’ve already found several MSS that I KNOW are both well done and worthy of publication, but they just don’t resonate for me
  • More food for thought: I’m excited to see how quite a few MSS really feel like projects, having all their pieces aligned toward a specific, thoughtful focus. But not all of these MSS manage to provide enough variation in their subthemes as they continue, finding different angles to explore—which means halfway through it can lose momentum, or things can start to feel a little repetitive. Finding that right balance between focus and freshness is definitely tricky
  • That said, if a MS engages me, holding my interest all the way through to the end, it’s likely a strong contender for a finalist
  • Jeremiah and I have to both love the MS for it to be a finalist, so we’ll reject anything either of us isn’t fully into
  • As I write this, I’ve gone through +65 of the 102 MSS
  • I plan to have everything read by Thursday, then will begin rereading anything I even slightly liked 🙂 And then I’ll reread some more
  • This weekend I’ll look through all our notes and decide upon ~15-20 MSS that really stand out, sharing this list with Jeremiah alongside all of my thoughts—from there we’ll figure out the 10 finalists + announce them at the end of next week!!!
Much love to you all ❤


We intend to have a new Tavern post each Wednesday, giving you all an inside look at the N! process, so stay tuned for more updates!

And here’s last week’s Review of our Chapbook Contest

Filed under: 2016 chapbook contest, N! News, Poetry

About the Author

Posted by

Christopher Morgan is a Lebanese American prose poet who grew up in Detroit, the Bible Belt of Georgia, and the San Francisco Bay Area, where he currently lives and co-manages Nostrovia! Press. The author of two chapbooks, “Shadow Songs” (Sad Spell Press 2015) and “Fables with Fangs” (Ghost City Press 2016), and the Reviews Coordinator at Alien Mouth, his work has been published at Gargoyle, A cappella Zoo, Voicemail Poems, Bartleby Snopes, DOGZPLOT, and Fruita Pulp, among others. He loves hiking in the redwoods, aphorisms, and happy hour margaritas.


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